ALBM-armed MiG-31s deploy to Kaliningrad
Further heightening the tensions between Russia and NATO in early February 2022 has been the apparent deployment of several MiG-31 Foxhounds to the enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea. Ordinarily, the arrival of the massive, well-armed Russian strategic interceptor to the area would raise alarm bells by itself, but these Foxhounds are of the MiG-31K configuration, capable of carrying a KH-47M2 Kinzhal ("Dagger") air launched ballistic missile on the centerline. Thus equipped, these strike Foxhounds have the potential to hit targets throughout nearly the entirety of Western Europe.
The Kh-47 is thought to be derived from the 9K720 Iskander / SS-26 Stone short range ballistic missile, which itself is a major threat in the current situation. The Kh-47's air launch gives it a considerably extended range as opposed to the Iskander, extending to a claimed figure of 1,200nm when launched from a Foxhound. The weapon's hypersonic flight profile (in the Mach 10-12 region) is intended to permit the Kh-47 to hit targets (including aircraft carriers and high value land targets such as BMD installations) that are defended by capable systems such as Aegis, THAAD and Patriot. Although a high degree of precision and 500kg warhead (to say nothing of the kinetic energy from the weapon impacting at better than 7,000mph) makes the Kinzahl formidable enough, the missile is also nuclear capable.
Some ten or so MiG-31s are thought to be operational with the Kh-47; the Tu-22M Backfire and Su-57 are potential launch platforms as well.
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